Now that summer is officially upon us, it is the perfect time to think about party food. Barbecues and pool parties create the most relaxed backdrop for finger foods such as sliced watermelon, chips, guacamole and hummus.
When you’re an “allergy mom” and accept an invitation to a party, gone are the days of responding as a passive guest. Our new normal includes a thoughtful, interactive process of planning food items with the host.
You request that your child’s allergens not be used in any dishes, especially if the child is contact allergic. You bring/make food that is safe to eat. There is almost always a potluck table. And even though you’ve already spoken to the host about not serving allergens nor is your child going to eat any of the food due to cross contamination, the table is still scanned for any potential “threats”( no offense to the hosts or guests). It’s like being in the FBI but without a badge or the privileges 😁😎. This mission is accomplished with a smile on your face and an outward sense of calm masking the fact that inside your head is spinning.
Luckily, we have a very supportive group of family and friends who are always willing to accommodate our needs and keep our daughter, Aleena safe. Even though it has been a few years since Aleena’s food allergy diagnosis, a small part of me still feels badly for asking people to refrain from serving hummus. Before her diagnosis, we used to love eating hummus. But since she is contact allergic and anaphylactic to sesame seeds and tahini, we had to give up eating it as a family. I have been experimenting with various alternatives without the use of tahini but with mediocre results until now.
A few weekends ago, we were invited to a friend’s birthday party. I was wondering what to bring and found this Cannellini Bean Dip recipe from Jacques Pepin’s new book, “Heart and Soul”. I decided to give it a try.
It was very easy to make with simple ingredients. And since we used canned beans, it took only about twenty minutes to make.
The cannellini beans impart a mild earthy flavor similar to garbanzo beans used in traditional hummus. I added extra water and yogurt to create a smooth, creamy texture. A generous squeeze of lemon tie all the flavors together. Pepin’s recipe also uses bread as a thickener which adds a great deal of depth to this dish. If you use crusty fresh bread, make sure the crusts are cut off and only use the soft parts. This will make it easier to blend together unless you have a very high powered blender. If you cannot eat gluten or dairy, I’ve included options for making it without these ingredients. I’m very happy to report that the dip tastes just as flavorful as the original version.
As I was milling around the serving table, I overheard a few women talking about my dip. They were commenting that it was good! And they were wondering if it was homemade? I chimed in and confessed that it was mine and “yes, it was homemade”. “Is this really hummus?”, one of the mom’s asked me? “No, I replied, it’s bean dip”. ” It tastes so similar but I like it better than hummus!”, she replied back. And with that exclamation, I thanked them both and walked away with a huge smile which warmed my heart.
You see the funny thing about food is that it is powerful in the way that it connects all of us. Flavors and smells can jog a memory or create a new one. There are certain foods such as sesame and hummus that have negative associations for my family because of the effects they have had on our daughter. However, sometimes, a stranger can say something as kind as “I like it better than hummus” and a negative association is turned into something positive. You can, in that moment, feel hopeful that there are other options out there that taste just as good.
Cannellini Bean Dip
Adapted from : Jacques Pepin, “Heart and Soul”
Free from: eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanut, sesame ( *Top 8 Free Options, see Notes below)
For the dip:
- 2 cans (15.5) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained. Reserve and set aside 1/3 cup of the beans.
- 2 small garlic cloves (about 1/4 teaspoon), crushed
- 1 cup diced bread, packed (about 2 ounces), crusts removed. *For gluten free options- see notes below
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon full fat yogurt *For dairy free option- see notes below
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 lemon or to taste
- 2 tablespoons water (see Notes below)
- 1/3 cup reserved beans (see above)
- 2 teaspoons good quality extra-virgin olive oil ( a few good glugs)
- ¼ teaspoon paprika( or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon parsley and/or cilantro, finely chopped
- sunflower seeds(optional)
For the dip, reserve 1/3 cup of the beans for garnish. Put the remaining beans in a food processor or blender. Add all the remaining ingredients, and process until very smooth, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula a few times if need be to help combine the ingredients. The dip should be creamy.
Taste and adjust for consistency, adding another tablespoon of water and/or a pinch of salt, if desired. Pulse until mixed.
Transfer and smooth the dip to a shallow medium size round serving dish. For the garnishes, place the reserved beans along the curve of the bowl or in the center. Next, add the cilantro/parsley and a sprinkling of paprika. Add sunflower seeds.
Drizzle with a few good glugs of high quality extra-virgin olive oil. Do not skimp on the quality of the oil, you will taste the difference!
Serve with a platter of cut vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, crackers and pita.
- If dip is too thick for your tastes, add 1 extra tablespoon for 3 tablespoons total plus a pinch of salt. Add extra water only if needed to thin out to desired consistency.
- You can make this dish up to a day before serving. Store in the refrigerator. Let come to room temperature and garnish with herbs, paprika and oil when ready to serve.
- For Top 8 Free options: To make gluten free: Replace 1:1 with a gluten free bread. To make dairy free- omit yogurt and replace with extra 1 tablespoon of water for a total of 3 tablespoons water.